The future of sharing is...
At least that’s how it played out at an excellent “Future of Sharing” session hosted by Beyond at Social Media Week, on 16 February at London's Design Guild.
In the spirit of sharing, here is what chimed with me:
Privacy - regulation needed now:
We are getting to a point where the sharing of content, status, recommendations and just about everything else plays such a profound part of the experience of every internet user, that it needs proper regulation.
This bubbles into the news from time to time, especially around launches like Facebook Timeline, but, to paraphrase panellist Allister Frost, head of digital marketing strategy at Microsoft, it is reaching a transparency tipping point: “If, as an industry, we don’t make it clear when and how information is being shared, governors and legislators will intervene and we don’t want that.”
Frictionless sharing - help or hinderance:
Slightly disturbing combination of words, important topic, described in detail here. There is a delicate balance to be struck between giving users more options to choose who they share with versus breaking the whole sharing model by making it too clunky to use in the first place. No easy answer here (no, not even the circles of Google+, who were unrepresented on the day).
But it is clear that social platforms need to get this balance right if they are to make sharing more powerful and relevant in the future. And also, potentially, more dignified, with Reuters’s Mark Jones calling for an “embarrassment retraction” button to protect people’s modesty when they drop their guard for that crucial digital millisecond.
Serendipity and the danger of over-filtering:
Great point this. As social networks surround us with conversations involving people we like, about subjects we express a preference for, do we risk making our whole internet experience homogenous and over-filtered? Do we all get funnelled in the same direction, removing (or at least reducing) the chance of us finding a fascinating tidbit of information from someone we have never met.
My average YouTube journey speaks against this – I start out looking for work-related brand case study and inevitably end up watching an American prankster make overweight mate look like a lemon – but I think the point holds. Part of everyone’s early fascination with the internet was its limitless possibilities, not an algorithm-based assessment of what computers think we want to see.
The future is mobile:
Facebook strategist Trevor Johnson made a very frank admission that his social network would effectively be a “mobile company very soon”. There are huge lessons for experience leaders like Imagination in this one statement. If people are to share meaningfully, they are likely to do so at the point of contact or inspiration. We are always thinking up ways to integrate mobile into the brand experiences we design. We must continue to do so in easy but engaging ways.
Brand advocacy - the power of super fans:
The idea that brands should be selective about who they share certain content and privileges with, has resonated at a few recent events I have attended. If you find the right ambassadors and make them feel special, they can do so much good work for you. Nokia are active here, giving 585 free Lumia phones to carefully-selected brand fans and taking, in exchange, 1200 pieces of “advocacy content”.
American Express’s “Link, Like, Love” campaign is another oft-cited social incentive success story.
Lesson: social is a two-way street, but work hard to find the best people to walk down that street with.
I need to adapt:
Hands up, by product of laziness, I am still piping my Twitter account straight to my Facebook profile. Normally there’s no problem. I’m a fairly light user and what I Tweet is generally relevant to my FB friends. Not so, during Social Media Week when I dash off half a dozen #smwsharing Tweets inside 10 minutes.
Result? Lots of bemused replies on Facebook, including one enquiring after my health when I added the hashtag “addictionLDN” (they are a branding agency and no, I don’t need help) to one status update.
My pledge: to decouple Facebook and Twitter, finally.
And apologies to my patient friends. The future of sharing has to be a little bit more clever than that.